On Tuesday 2 May, a group of voters gave a stark warning to Theresa May, right outside parliament and Tory HQ. And it’s one that she’d do well to heed, as the message represents around 12 million people who will be voting in the general election on 8 June.
“Grave” and “systematic” human rights abuses
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) organised a protest opposite parliament. Its message was a simple one: to #TrashTheTories in the upcoming election. And asking people to remember, when voting, #NotTheFuckingTories.
But the reason behind DPAC’s message was what the UN described as “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. All committed by the Conservatives.
Since the Tories first came to power in 2010, deaf, disabled and sick people, including those living with mental health issues, have been the subject of countless benefit cuts. The UN also says they have also been “disproportionately” affected by successive governments imposing years of austerity. And nearly half of all poverty in the UK is directly linked to disability.
So members and supporters of DPAC decided to raise awareness of just what the Tories have done to their community.
Trash May. Trash the Tories.
Around 80-100 disabled people and their supporters gathered outside parliament. They wore T-shirts saying “Who 2 Vote 4? #NotTheFuckingTories”. Members of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) were also present:
The protesters then marched from parliament to Conservative Party Central Office. Chants of “Tories! Out!” and “We Are All Daniel Blake!” were directed at the office:
Paula Peters from DPAC’s steer group had this to say to the Tories inside:
An arm of the Tories?
The police were present, and many protesters felt that the five police vans and around 30 uniformed officers were unnecessarily heavy-handed:
Protesters then moved back to Westminster, where they blocked the main road outside parliament for around 90 minutes. The police made repeated attempts to threaten disabled people with arrest. But none were made. Many protesters were also speaking to passers by, explaining why the action was taking place. The protesters were peaceful, but resolute in their action:
Nicola Jeffery from the DPAC steer group had this to say to one uniformed officer:
Since 2010, the Tories have cut, among other things:
- The Independent Living Fund (ILF), which previously supported people with care packages. Since the government cut it, in some areas 88% of people have seen their care packages reduced by up to 50%.
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for sick and disabled people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) by a third. This will affect 500,000 people.
- 55% a week from ESA for sick and disabled 18-to-25-year-olds.
- 51,000 disabled people’s Motability vehicles, which were vital for them to live independently.
- Personal Independence Payments (PIP) from 164,000 people living with mental health issues. And the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has reduced or stopped PIP for nearly half (45%) of all claimants.
Disabled people under attack
But it’s not just Tory cuts that have hit sick and disabled people so hard. For example:
- The DWP was caught up in a scandal involving fit-for-work assessors asking people why they hadn’t “killed” themselves.
- A study found that the DWP fit-for-work assessments caused people permanent mental health damage.
- 62% of people the DWP sanctions live with mental health issues.
- 10,600 people died after their benefit claims ended.
- 90 people a month are dying after the DWP declares them ‘fit-for-work’.
- 590 people may have taken their own life due, in part, to DWP fit-for-work tests.
Disabled people have suffered terribly at the hands of the Tories. And DPAC and the MHRN have been at the forefront of campaigning to expose just what successive governments have done to their communities. But at the election on 8 June, people have a chance to make their voices heard. And the campaigners’ message is clear: vote for anyone, but not the Tories.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a five minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
Featured image via The Canary/Flickr
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